Seeking equal pay, PeaceHealth's home nurses go on strike
Over 90 home and hospice nurses with PeaceHealth Sacred Heart began a two-week strike Saturday.
On Monday morning, the nurses picketed outside PeaceHealth’s homecare offices in Springfield. They want the same wages as their in-hospital counterparts, arguing they do comparable work.
“We have stood up to the big hospital, the biggest boys in town, and we're not going to take it,” said home-health case manager Corey Kiyabu, holding a sign that read “Fair Pay Now!”
According to the Oregon Nurses Association, past contracts with PeaceHealth had parity between nursing types, but hospital leadership has proposed lower increases for home and hospice care moving forward.
The nurses say that’s caused many staff to leave, discourages other PeaceHealth workers from swapping over, and impedes hiring. They say the remaining workers are now left with greater caseloads.
“It put a stress on the people who are still here, to the point where we weren't able to give the best service—the service that PeaceHealth professes we deserve to give to our clients and patients,” said Kiyabu.
In an emailed statement Saturday, PeaceHealth disputed the workers' account, claiming there is only one vacant position in the home care unit.
Additionally, the hospital said the nurses already receive above-market wages, and would see this reach an 8% margin under its proposed contract.
Hospice nurse Zack Page said while PeaceHealth nurses do receive good pay, this strike is about equality rather than money alone.
“We work for the same company, we get the same pay," said Page. "It's always been that way. So for them to change it right now, just to pinch some pennies, that's where the injustice comes in.”
As the strike continues, some nurses say they're not confident that PeaceHealth can continue to provide adequate care.
Page said he had no communication with his replacement, and his patients are uncertain whether someone will be there to help them.
“The care will be lacking for sure,” said Page. “There's 95 nurses going on strike. There's no way they can cover that. They're gonna be putting out fires.”
In a statement, the hospital said it had contracted temporary caretakers, but a spokesperson declined to say how many.
Kiyabu said he laid out his caseload in full to his supervisor, but he’s prepared patients for Plan B.
"They've worked very hard getting other resources through family, friends and other community resources," said Kiyabu. "We're not solely relying on what PeaceHealth is going to try to do to accommodate the strike."
Page said he hopes for a quick settlement. PeaceHealth said it looks forward to returning to the bargaining table once the strike ends.